A Supreme Court gamble for Republicans in election year

A Supreme Court gamble for Republicans in election year
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President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE is slated to announce his pick for the Supreme Court on Monday, a gambit designed to again stoke the culture wars, further endear him to his white evangelical base, and undermine the legal underpinnings of Roe v. Wade. At the same time, this nomination may also undercut Republican efforts to retain the House while, in the end, boosting their efforts to salvage the Senate. That is a lot of moving parts.

For Trump, a once upon a time pro-choice New York City real estate developer, appointing a pro-life Supreme Court justice is a matter of political survival, as he has privately confided. Although only a quarter of the overall American electorate, white evangelicals comprise nearly half, 45 percent to be exact, of the president’s voters.

Trump may have no reservations about grabbing women, but the unborn are sacrosanct for Republicans and the religious right. The days of a Republican Party that put a pro-choice candidate on a national ticket, like George H.W. Bush in 1980, before he had evolved, are gone. Back then, there was a working understanding that the status quo on abortion could benefit Republican candidates in elections.

During the course of the 1988 presidential campaign, the late Robert Teeter, his pollster and senior adviser, explained that Republican candidates could vent against the Supreme Court, secure in the knowledge that Roe would not be reversed. Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, both appointed by President Reagan, endorsed the vitality of Roe in the 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Now, however, white working class voters and evangelicals are at the heart of the Republican base, and Republican opposition to abortion is framed in sweeping terms. The word “abortion” appears no less than 35 times in the Republican Party platform for 2016. Abortion is not posed as a question best left to the states here. Rather, the platform declares its support for “a human life amendment to the Constitution.” Without citing to any scientific evidence or medical data, the platform also trumpets that “abortion endangers the health and well-being of women.”

Still, the 14 states with the lowest abortion rates all voted for Trump. By the numbers, a majority of voters in Indiana and West Virginia, and a plurality in Missouri and South Dakota believe that abortion should be illegal in most cases. With incumbent Democratic senators up for reelection in each of those four states, that reality has ramifications. As Trump said at a rally in North Dakota, continued Republican control of the Senate was “the most important thing.” He knows of what he speaks.

Under the Constitution, impeachment is the prerogative of the House, but presidential nominations are the purview of the Senate. As Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE breathes down Trump’s neck, and the future of the federal bench also hanging in the balance, the Senate is the main event for the White House. Yet, where the Republican Party stands on abortion in not where the United States is at. Overall, the public supports Roe as law, and is more nuanced in its views on abortion. According to recent polls, Americans oppose overturning Roe by a two-to-one margin, and self-identification between “pro-choice” and “pro-life” is evenly divided.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the most vulnerable House seats fall outside of God country. On the coasts, opposition to abortion rights will likely come with a steep price tag in upcoming House races. The Republican grip on Northeast and California swing seats is already slippery. Threats to curb abortion access stand to make college graduate suburban moms go ballistic, as if school gun deaths are not enough. Indeed, even before the Kennedy vacancy, high earners were staring at the Republican Party with a gimlet eye, having lost much of the deductibility of state and local taxes as a result of the tax bill.

As a result, come 2019, Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote US mayors, Black leaders push for passage of bipartisan infrastructure bill Lawmakers say innovation, trade rules key to small business gains MORE may reprise her role as Speaker. For Republicans, that would be a nightmare come true. But for Trump, that is a fact of life he could likely live with. Impeachment is not synonymous with removal. Just ask Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFive takeaways from Arizona's audit results Virginia governor's race enters new phase as early voting begins Business coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees MORE and Lanny Davis. They can tell you about it.

Lloyd Green was the opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1988 and later served in the U.S. Department of Justice. He is now the managing member of research and analytics firm Ospreylytics.